Category: Fantasy


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I’ve been putting off writing this review for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve been replaying Persona 3: FES, and those games are time vacuums and exceptionally addicting. The other, more important, reason is that I loved Life of Pi so much that I felt like I needed a good 24 hours of contemplation of the film before I could approach it with a fair and balanced eye. Because, Life of Pi is a technical masterpiece. It joins Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life as being one of the best looking films not just of the 2010s but of all time. It is as deeply spiritual a cinematic experience as I’ve had in ages, and there almost isn’t a wasted frame in the entire film. Life of Pi may very well be the best film of Ang Lee‘s storied career. But, despite my rapturous enjoyment of the film, what the film (and more explicitly, the book) has to say about actual religion and agnosticism is sort of silly and juvenile and distracts from an otherwise soaring fantasy coming-of-age film.

And that last sentence may cause confusion for some as I referred to the film as being deeply spiritual yet I mock the actual religious content of the film/book. When I refer to a film as being spiritual (whether that’s The Tree of Life or Synecdoche, New York), I mean that it has something substantive to say about our place in the universe, our relationship with nature, our own pending mortality. Spiritual films (I consider The Road to be one as well) wrack me emotionally by the end not because of sad or melodramatic content but they force me to look universal truths square in the eye and they change my worldview forever when the movie is over. Life of Pi scales that summit and although its own explicitly religious aspirations (which are laid out far more directly in the novel) are shallow and vapid, it doesn’t significantly mar the deep emotional connection I formed with Ang Lee’s masterful film.

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Based off of the critically acclaimed novel by Yann Martell, Life of Pi is a tender coming-of-age tale wrapped in a classic “shipwrecked” fantasy-adventure. Framed (convincingly enough at first that I had to pause the film to see if it was a true story) as adult Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) recounts his life story to an aspiring novelist (Rafe Spall). Young Pi (Suraj Sharma) grew up in French India where his parents ran a zoo. An especially bright and curious boy, Pi was interested in religion and spirituality from a young age and became a member of not one, not two, but three different religions as a child. He was simultaneously a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Christian, and saw no reason why that was contradictory. Pi was full of wonder, and there was nothing in the universe that seemed beyond his appreciation, including the dangerous Bengal tiger living in the zoo, Richard Parker.

However, Pi’s family decides to sell the zoo for fear that the family business is going under and that it would be in the family’s best interest to move to French Canada so that Pi and his siblings can have a better life. However, things don’t go according to plan. With all of the animals on board like Noah’s proverbial arc (the religious symbolism there just now dawning on me), the family’s freighter to Canada is sunk by a storm and Pi is the only human survivor. His only company on his life boat is an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena, and the tiger Richard Parker. And it’s not long before it’s just Pi and Richard Parker. And the rest of the film chronicles the day-to-day survival that Pi must endure if he hopes to make it to land when he’s stuck on a boat with a hungry and vicious carnivore. Pair it with the most impressive visuals this side of Avatar, and you have an idea what to expect with Life of Pi.

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Although, bringing up Avatar may give the false impression that Life of Pi is all style and no substance which it assuredly isn’t. As anyone who has seen Brokeback Mountain can attest, Ang Lee knows how to leverage visual beauty (this time mostly computer generated rather than stunning natural scenery) as a way to complement the thematic content of his pictures. In Brokeback Mountain, the stoic, eternal beauty of the Montana hillsides became a metaphor for the secret escape and primal passions of Jack and Ennis. In Life of Pi, the often surreal dreamscape of the ocean (because fantasy and reality are two sides of the same coin in Life of Pi) and Pi’s utter visual isolation constantly remind the viewer of the film’s themes of a man in a total state of nature and the moral costs we must endure in order to survive when removed from society

Still, even if there wasn’t a contextual reason for the film’s overwhelming beauty, there would still be enough moments of exultant visual pleasure in Life of Pi to make it one of the most important films of the years, and I could fill up an entire review just talking about individual sequences that bowled me over with their raw beauty. There’s a scene about halfway through the film where Pi and Richard Parker (whose name I can no longer say in anything other than an Indian accent) are in the boat at night and beneath them is a bio-luminescent visual feast of jellyfish and algae that is interrupted by the arrival of a surfacing whale. It’s stunning, and there’s another moment, much later in the film, where a starving Pi peers into the ocean and hallucinates a visual phantasmagoria that rivals the “birth of the universe” scene of The Tree of Life.

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He was up against some exceptionally stiff competition this year, so I can’t complain too much about Suraj Sharma not getting an Academy Award nomination (when you’re up against Daniel Day-Lewis, Denzel Washington, and Joaquin Phoenix, it’s understandable if you’re passed by). However, for a total newcomer to Hollywood, Suraj Sharma should make an immediate name for himself. He carried this film on his shoulders, because no matter how beautiful it was, if I didn’t care about the boy, it wouldn’t amount to anything. And Suraj made me believe that he was on a boat in the middle of the ocean with a tiger even though he was simply acting against a green screen for most of the film. That takes talent, and I really hope that he makes a career for himself. He is a young talent to watch.

I’m going to draw this review to a close because I’m taking my sister back to Philippi tonight. We both finished our finals today, and we’re going to likely spend most of our summer at home (rather than in Morgantown). She’ll be there because she doesn’t have a place in Morgantown, and I’ll be there because I work in Clarksburg although I still plan on making some trips to Morgantown whenever I need to get away from my family (which may or may not be often. we’ll see). But, I need to pack a little. Anyways, the point of this review is that Life of Pi is far and away the best of the Best Picture nominees that I’ve seen so far. Argo isn’t in the same league of film-making as this masterpiece, and if you have even a passing interest in great movies, you owe it to yourself to watch this excellent picture.

Final Score: A

 

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I’ve reviewed seasons 4-7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as well as the entirety of the canonical season 8 in graphic novel form). I’ve pontificated on the brilliance of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I’m currently in the process of reviewing Angel. Give it time and I will review Firefly and Dollhouse. I’m a Joss Whedon believer. I’m also a huge comic book fan. I’ve reviewed some graphic novels here and there (though lately I’ve been on a manga kick), and obviously, I’ve taken on a super hero movie or two. So, when I found out that Joss Whedon (who I put in the same league as TV luminaries like Steven Moffat, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse) was going to be helming the long-rumored and long-labored live-action adaptation of The Avengers, I was obviously excited. Over 7 seasons of Buffy, 5 seasons of Angel, and shorter (but not less brilliant) tenures with other programs, Joss Whedon earned his crown as the king of American “popcorn science fiction/fantasy” storytelling (Lindelof and Cuse are ultimately a little more serious and cerebral though Whedon’s best moments match theirs). Much like Steven Moffat has redefined what was possible with the decades long story of Doctor Who under his tenure as the showrunner, Joss Whedon set virtually all of the precedents for modern, serialized sci-fi storytelling with Buffy and Angel. If anyone was going to be able to make The Avengers work, it was him (or Christopher Nolan though his version would have been intensely dark). So, after three weeks of waiting to see the film so that I could see it with my dad and sister after returning to WV from NYC, I’ve finally seen The Avengers. It matched my expectations and more to make one of the best superhero films yet.

While the story is admittedly threadbare and mostly serves as an excuse for Joss Whedon to explore the power dynamics among this group of extraordinary (and broken) heroes as well as set up one explosive set piece after another (which makes my mouth salivate over what he could have accomplished with his TV shows had he had network support), it more than accomplishes what it needs in order to propel this thrilling film from its beginning to its impossible to overstate as epic end. Covert government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. is studying an extradimensional object known as the Tesseract (am I the only one who immediately thought of A Wrinkle in Time?) which could be the key to sustainable, unlimited clean energy when their secret government facility is attacked by Loki (War Horse‘s Tom Hiddleston), the brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who is on an attempt to subjugate the Earth with the help of an alien species called the Chitauri. After Loki steals the Tesseract (and corrupts Hawkeye (The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner) and others into his brainwashed slaves), S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Pulp Fiction‘s Samuel L. Jackson) is forced to call together Earth’s mightiest heroes to defend the planet from an imminent and apocalyptic invasion. But when your group includes the billionaire playboy Tony Stark/Iron Man (Two Girls and a Guy‘s Robert Downey Jr.), super soldier Steve Rogers/Captain American (Chris Evans) who’s spent the last 70 years frozen in ice, former Russian spy Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Lost in Translation’s Scarlet Johansson), tempermental god Thor, and reclusive scientist/unstoppable force of destruction Bruce Banner/The Hulk (The Kids Are All Right‘s Mark Ruffalo), it’s a given that just getting these guys to work together is going to be as monumental a task as defeating the supernatural forces ready to destroy Earth.

The pedigree of the actors in this film should speak volumes about how well-acted it is (along with Joss Whedon’s natural ability to really bring out the chemistry in his stars). There are four Academy Award nominees in the cast (Robert Downey Jr. for Chaplin and Tropic Thunder, Sam Jackson for Pulp Fiction, Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right, and Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker), one Academy Award winner (Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love), two BAFTA winners (Scarlet Johansson for Lost in Translation and Sam Jackson), and they’ve all got a plethora of other industry awards under their belts. You’d think with this much talent in one film that there wouldn’t be enough for every one to do, but you’d be wrong. While there are a ton of huge action sequences in this film, the reason why The Avengers has become such a critical success (and at least partially why it’s been such a commercial success) is that Whedon figured out the best way to bring out through the script and the actors both the highs and lows of these characters and how to best make them clash and bounce off each other. Fans of the comics know that Iron Man and Captain America aren’t crazy about one another and putting Robert Downey Jr.’s glib anti-hero alongside the almost Superman-esque innocence and idealism of Cap makes for some of the film’s best moments. Similarly, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner (which was my second favorite casting decision of the film) shows a man who always seems like he’s on the verge of finally losing it and Ruffalo captures both the intensity and anger of Bruce Banner along side his intelligence. I could go on all day about the scenes where Robert Downey Jr. trying to get under specific characters skins were brilliant, but there was a wonderful chemistry between the two brains of the group with him and Mark Ruffalo to off-set the heavy-handed violence the film wasn’t afraid to employ. However, the best part of the cast was easily Tom Hiddleston. He was the only redeeming aspect of Thor, and once again, he stole the whole damn show again. I still think his costume is just about the dumbest looking costume in the history of superhero movies, but Tom Hiddleston was just deliciously evil.

From a script perspective, the movie was pure Joss Whedon and contained all of the touchstones of his television programs. A minor but well-beloved character dies in a brutal and unexpected way. Dark comedy is intermixed in even the most dramatic moments. Seriously, this film could be laugh out loud funny at times (mostly involving Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth). There’s a never-ending stream of pop-culture references. You’ve got a female character who kicks nearly as much ass as the men (especially considering that she doesn’t have any superpowers whatsoever or even a gimmick like Hawkeye’s archery). You’ve got a massive ensemble piece that explores the power dynamics between wildly different and almost inherently incompatible people. You have a story about what it means to be a hero and the meaning of sacrifice and service. The film may not be especially complicated from a plot perspective (it basically chugs around to exactly where you think it’s going to go), but thematically, Whedon hit a home run. Super hero movies whose names aren’t Watchmen (or the Christopher Nolan Batman films) are supposed to be fun, escapist fantasy, and Whedon delivers everything you’d expect from a stunning summer blockbuster, but he also fills the film with more brains, humor, and heart than any superhero film in years .

Still, all of my plaudits about Whedon’s script and his sense of humor and his encyclopedic knowledge of American pop culture would be for naught if Whedon didn’t deliver the spectacle that you’ve come to expect from your superhero movies, and to say that The Avengers is probably the most epic superhero film of all time would be the understatement of the century. There are action sequences in this film that rival some of the greatest movie battle scenes of all time. Whether we’re talking the final fight in Avatar or the Battle for Zion in Matrix Revolutions, this film’s final fights in, above, and around the streets of Manhattan has the potential to outshine them all. It was a special effects extravaganza, but with that sense of choreography and urgency that only Whedon could really deliver. There’s not a wasted explosion or a wasted second of that scene. In some way, it propels the story, speaks a little bit about the resourcefulness and strength (or weaknesses of our heroes) or just gives an excuse for Whedon to show that he was the master of intelligent action programming back in his hay day. The film has a handful of absolutely massive set-pieces and for those who grow tired of the Transformers-esque Hollywood machine of explosions with no substance, let’s just say that Whedon avoids the pitfalls of having a massive budget and wasting it on fluff. There’s a genius to these action sequences, and anyone who saw Serenity knows Whedon was going to be able to deliver.

Considering all of the negative press that Peter Jackson’s decision to film The Hobbit in 48 fps (instead of the usual 24 fps) has received as well as Christopher Nolan’s decision to put Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, I don’t think it’s a stretch that The Avengers will come to be known as the event film of 2012. Since it broke the opening weekend record (and the second weekend record) and is tied for the fastest film to ever make $1 billion, it shouldn’t suprise anyone when The Avengers winds up being one of the top three grossing films of all time (it’s been out three weeks now and is already at sixth place). For Joss Whedon fans, this is an affirmation of everything we’ve always known about our beloved hero, and while it won’t bring back prematurely canceled brilliant programs like Firefly, it does let us know that if Whedon ever decides to make another TV program in the future, maybe it will finally have the audience it needs to survive. While I almost wish that there had been a more cerebral nature to the plot, I can’t fault Whedon for trying to make the film as accessible as possible, and if this is the moment that finally catapults Whedon out of “cult” status and into the mainstream, I must tip my hat to one of my favorite pop-culture figures of the last twenty years.

Final Score: A-

Just last week, I watched the achingly beautiful and meditative Wings of Desire, a 1987 German film by director Wim Wenders for which he won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. As the story of an immortal angel who turns down his eternity old mission to silently observe and record the human experience to be a mortal and know what it means to be a man and love, it was an artistically ambitious and visually striking ode to the beauty and transitory nature of life. As soon as I discovered that Wenders released a sequel six years later, I immediately put it on my Netflix queue and moved it to the very top because of how much I loved the original film. That’s why I’m sad to report that while 1993’s Faraway, So Close! is a gorgeous and uplifting film in its own right, it comes nowhere close to capturing the spiritual magic of Wings of Desire. By embracing a more conventional and accessible plot structure, Wenders loses the postmodernist magic of his original film and instead tells a story that is perhaps a little too simplistic and earnest in its idealism.

It’s been six years since Damiel (Bruno Ganz), the protagonist of Wings of Desire, gave up his status as an angel to be a man and to be with the lovely trapeze artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin). They have a young daughter and Marion has found professional success with a circus troupe while Damiel has fully integrated into human life running his own pizza shop. His closest “friend” as an angel, Cassiel (Otto Sander),  has spent the intervening years upholding his post as a recorder of human life and to bring people small comfort in their most distressing moments. He’s even found a replacement for his personal counsel in the female angel Raphaela (Tess‘s Nastassja Kinski). Cassiel finds himself longing for the same kind of human existence that Damiel has and bemoans his inability to reach out and make a true impact in the lives of the people he silently observes every day. When one of the girls that he watches nearly falls to hear death, Cassiel sacrifices his angelhood to save her life though his transition into this mortal coil is far less simple and pleasant than Damiel when a mysterious supernatural agent (Willem Dafoe) does his best to shape the course of Cassiel’s new life, and not for the better.

The most remarkable part of the film was Otto Sander’s performance as Cassiel (and later, his human persona of Karl Engel). Well, the best part is still the black-and-white photography but a considerably larger portion of this film was shot in color than in Wings of Desire so it didn’t have the same total effect this time around. Cassiel’s character arc is about as tragic as you can imagine, and Otto Sanders really sells Cassiel’s transformation from an innocent and naive newborn essentially to a more hardened and cynical person in a pretty heartbreaking way. There are plenty of scenes which find Cassiel raging against the forces of fate that landed him in this situation and why he can’t do the same good as other men, and Sander was fare more effective in this film than he was Wings of Desire (even if the latter was a much better film). Bruno Ganz doesn’t have much screen time in this though he certainly makes the most of what he has yet again. Willem Dafoe is as creepy and unsettling as he always is although I’m still not entirely sure what his character was supposed to be. Maybe the Angel of Death. I really just don’t have a certain answer. Mikhail Gorbachev (yes, the former premier of the Soviet Union) had a small cameo. So, Wim Wenders obviously had some serious pull back in the day for casting.

Despite its artistic ambitions, one of the reasons that Wings of Desire succeeded so completely was in its childlike simplicity. It’s not simplicity in structure or philosophical potency, but a simplicity of plot and narrative. By abandoning any honest notion of plot, Wings of Desire was able to focus solely on placing the audience in the emotional and psychological state of these immortal beings who are forced to watch humanity as distant voyeurs rather than true participants. It examined the beauty in the smaller moments of life by showing us the dullness of eternity and passive observation. Faraway, So Close! attempts to tell an actual plot and in the process, it sacrifices the symbolic power of the image and the engagement of meditative contemplation. Others may appreciate the more plot-driven nature of this film, but ultimately, it overreaches itself and fails to reach any of the emotional and spiritual heights of the original film because it becomes slightly too self-righteous and starry-eyed. While I consider Wings of Desire to be one of the more uplifting films I’ve watched for this blog, I also thought it had  a seriously commendable subversive streak. Faraway, So Close! lacks any of the edge of its predecessor, even though this film shows the occasional flash of a disheartened pessimism.

It’s perhaps unfair to compare this film so much to the original since it’s very clear that Wim Wenders was trying to craft a very different story thematically and visually, but since it’s still a direct sequel, I think the comparison has to be made, and in the end Faraway, So Close! simply doesn’t fit in the same league of daring and adventurous film-making as Wings of Desire. Had Wings of Desire not existed and I was able to look at this film in a context-free vacuum, perhaps its score would be a little higher, but knowing exactly what Wim Wenders is capable of makes me more than a little disappointed in this particular entry in his film library. While I can’t recommend this film with as much enthusiasm as its predecessor, it may still hold plenty of interest for fans of foreign cinema, and if you’re somehow reading this post without having seen Wings of Desire, you should drop whatever you’re doing and watch it. It’s probably the best movie I’ve watched since The Tree of Life a couple months ago.

Final Score: B

Out of the over 200 films I’ve reviewed for this blog in the last year, there have been a handful of films that I would immediately describe more as visual poetry/tone poems than as conventionally structured cinema. Stroszek (one of the only films whose score I want to retroactively increase because my respect/appreciation for it has grown infinitely since I first viewed it), La Strada, and The Tree of Life made the conscious decision to forsake complex narrative for unyielding emotion and mood. Imagery and atmosphere took precedence over plot and for that, they’ve always stood out. When I’m watching a film like that, I get the same kind of intellectual engagement that I associate more with reading a book than with watching a movie. It’s ironic since films like this emphasize the visual aspect of cinema (particularly in the way that images can create emotional reactions) but they stimulate my mind more than the wordiest “Award-bait” dramas. Directors like Herzog, Fellini, and Malick realize that form can follow function and the power you can wrest away from the visual story. I love what a new friend of mine called “verbal volleyball” films but sometimes you just need to have your mind and heart overwhelmed with a visually arresting experiencing and 1987’s Wings of Desire from German director Wim Wenders is sure to sate that yearning.

In Cold War Berlin, two immortal angels, Damiel (Downfall’s Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), invisibly observe the comings-and-goings of the world. With a mission to study and testify to the human experience, they float around the city hearing the thoughts of the citizens and providing unknown spiritual comfort to those in need. Both angels joke about discovering what it would be like to cease their eternal existence and take on the mantle of personhood to experience the ups and downs of human life. They long to see color, to be able to touch the world around them, to experience the wonders of life when time finally has meaning. When Damiel’s wanderings draw him to a circus on the eve of its final performance, he espies a young trapeze artist, Marion (Solveig Dommartin), and instantly falls in love with her. Deciding to renounce his immortality once and for all, Damiel becomes a person and experiences the beauty in life that so many of us take for granted while Cassiel is forced to remain an observer of the tragedies of mankind.

When told through the point of view of the angels, the film is shot in such a rich and striking black-and-white that you’d think you stumbled across a long-lost classic from the black and white era. It is only the moments when the film is told through humanity’s point of view that the world is jolted back into color (and the color palette is heavily saturated). Perhaps its because of the wonderful Blu-Ray transfer, but the shadows and contrast in the black and white scenes are among the most sharp and crisp I’ve ever seen. The cinematographer, Henri Alekan, was making films in the early days of Jean Cocteau, and in its Fellini-esque magic, the visual deluge of the film enveloped me in a way that no film has since I watched The Tree of Life. The film has its share of extended scenes (which provide the emotional glue holding the film together) but the heart of the physical disconnect and urban loneliness that the film spends so much time meditating on arises in the loosely connected and disjointed moments where Damiel and Cassiel flitter through the town helping to bear the burden of other’s suffering and in the film’s minimalist script, the beautifully shot scenes surrounding these moments raises the film to a masterwork of cinematic art.

Two months ago, I made it through two-thirds of Bruno Ganz’s historical drama Downfall (covering the last days of Hitler’s life) before I decided to take a nap and I never finished it. His performance as Hitler was one of the most ferocious and ultimately brave (by both humanizing Hitler while still showing how monstrous he could be) performances of any film that’s name isn’t There Will Be Blood. For what I hope are obvious reasons, Damiel is a much more subtle and low-key role than the Fuhrer, yet somehow Ganz manages to make this one nearly as interesting (if not as incendiary). Damiel has very little in the way of lines despite being the main character. In fact, most of his lines are voiced-over inner monologues. Yet, with an expressive face (that forces me to make another Fellini comparison) that seems right out of Fellini Satyricon, his performance moved me to complete heartbreak for a longing for that childlike sense of innocence and wonder. Otto Sander had the even more difficult task as the more taciturn and reserved Cassiel, but in a scene where he fails to prevent a man’s suicide, he tore my heart out with his anguish. Peter Falk also managed to be a scene-stealer essentially playing a fictionalized version of himself (in some really weird meta-commentary that I didn’t really understand).

It’s at moments like these where I truly wish I had a partner for this great experiment in examining the history of cinema. While I would never wish having to sit through garbage like War Horse on another living being, movies that ask such grand questions and paint such a poetic picture practically demand someone else to discuss them with. I have ideas on the themes of this film but as someone who’s read too much Nietzsche, I know my interpretations of something this ambiguous may ultimately only be a reflection of my personality. The film is at times an ode to the transitory. It’s a celebration of life and all its wonders even in its most tragic. These angels aren’t solely guardian angels. As said by Cassiel, their duty is to testify to the history of life (and even what predated life). They are the eternal observers of the human condition. So, in some ways, the film also acts as a commentary of the way we interact with what we observe and the voyeurism of the visual arts (i.e. the film you’re watching). It explores the ripple of memory and the desire to latch onto the past when life is meant to be lived in the now. It’s power is undeniable and I honestly at this point just want a fresh commentary on the film besides my own so if you’ve seen it feel free to leave comments in the comment section below.

I would argue that the only barriers to entry for this film are for those with no patience for foreign films and for those who don’t like more “art-house” cinema (though I would argue that despite its stylistic presentation, Wings of Desire is very accessible as compared to say a David Lynch film). Other than those types of people (who are automatically qualified from being real movie fans in my book), I highly recommend that all of my readers give Wings of Desire a go. It’s a haunting and meditative film whose message has both inspired and moved me. It’s also one of those films that I know I’m going to still be chewing on in the weeks to come. It can be a little slow (when I discovered that I had only been watching the film for an hour and not two like I thought, I was incredibly shocked), but it’s poetic value can’t be diminished even by pacing that may scare off the average movie-goer. As a cynic, you occasionally grow to be distrustful of things that are truly beautiful, but the way that Wings of Desire mixes up melancholy, beauty, innocence, and unbridled joy make it a must-watch film.

Final Score: A

 

As an aspiring entertainment journalist, for better or worse, it’s my duty to try and take in the aspects of pop culture currently capturing the popular zeitgeist. As someone who was constantly frustrated as a teenager by people who insulted the Harry Potter series but had neither read the books nor seen the movies (at least past the initial entries), I try to make it a point not to belittle things I’ve never watched. A couple of years ago, one of my co-workers in the dorm hoisted her copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight into my hands, and in the interest of knowing what all of the hooplah was about, I read Twilight (and eventually New Moon). While it wasn’t nearly as terrible as some men make it out to be, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch of the imagination to say that the Twilight books are roughly of the quality of above average fan fiction, and Stephenie Meyer’s notion of romance is perhaps more than a bit unhealthy.

Despite my complete aversion to her writing style and my utter lack of interest in the (perhaps) key romantic plot of the series, I would be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy some of the fantasy world building in the established Twilight universe. Had it not been for the introduction of the werewolves as well as the Volturri vampire hierarchy in New Moon, I would have likely lost interest in the series after that point. However, the addition of the conflict between Jacob and Edward and generally the addition of Jacob period (who makes Edward seem even more boring and uninspired of a character than he did at first) as well as the ticking time bomb of a showdown between the Cullen family and the world’s less sparkly vampires piqued my interest.

While I’m still yet to read Eclipse, I saw the movie which I thoroughly enjoyed without even the slightest hint of irony. It was a dark urban fantasy action film with plenty of mythology to pull from, and with the exception of the love story, it was a fun if flawed film. My family went to see Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1 in theaters, and after all of the forward momentum that Eclipse made for the franchise, Breaking Dawn represented a frustrating step backwards into everything that makes this franchise childish drivel as well as a soap box for Stephenie Meyer’s bloated and self-righteous political and religious views which she has managed to hoist on a generation of impressionable young girls. With dialogue as insipid and stale as something you’d see from a first year film student and plotting so languid that I nearly fell asleep in the theatre (at least until the more compelling final 20 minutes), Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1 is easily one of the most disappointing films of the year.

Set shortly after the end of Eclipse, Breaking Dawn picks up on the eve of Edward and Bella’s wedding. The Volturri have set an ultimatum that Bella must either become a vampire or die in order to protect the secret of the existence of vampires. Despite Edward’s own misgivings, Bella and Edward are marrying (mainly because Bella wants to have sex and Edward won’t til they’re married) and on their honeymoon, Edward will change Bella. Despite still being in love with Bella, Jacob had given his blessing to Bella’s transformation until he learns that Bella and Edward plan on having sex before Bella is turned into a vampire, which Jacob fears will kill Bella. Without wanting to spoil any of the plot (not that it’s a particularly plot heavy film), on Bella and Edward’s honeymoon, Bella discovers that she’s pregnant, and it’s growing fast and possibly killing her. Soon, war is on the verge of breaking out between the werewolves of Jacob’s tribe and the Cullen vampires.

It is painful to watch Kristen Stewart act in this film and not just because of the Gollum-esque makeup she’s wearing by the film’s end. Having seen her work in other films like Adventureland and Into the Wild, I know she’s a better actress than this. As Bella, she’s capable of about one expression which is a strange combination of pain and complete mental vacuity. There is hardly a moment in the film where she doesn’t look like she’s constipated and that Bella simply has no clue what’s going on around her. Unless this is a subtle commentary on how Bella was intentionally written as a blank slate for young teenage girls to project themselves onto, there’s virtually no excuse for a talented actress like Kristen Stewart to put forth a performance this lazy. Robert Pattinson has exactly one job which is to be good looking and make the female fan base swoon. In that regards, he succeeds but he also manages to bring at least more weight to Edward’s pain and angst than the script provides. Once again, Taylor Lautner is the saving grace of the cast as the hot-blooded Jacob, the only character with any flaws or personality in the franchise.

Outside of the simple fact that virtually nothing happens for the first ¾ of the film, the message that this film sends to little girls is absolutely reprehensible. Stephenie Meyer has made no secret that her fundamental religious beliefs have heavily influenced her writing, and there is even less subtle proselytizing on display in Breaking Dawn than a C.S. Lewis novel. To recount the anti-feminist themes on display in Breaking Dawn could fill up an entire essay. A short list includes that it is better to get married at the age of 18 than to experiment with one’s sexuality; a woman’s duty is to completely subserve herself to a man to the point of giving up her humanity for eternity; it is better to die than to have an abortion; men with Madonna complexes (the inability to view their spouses in a sexual manner) are to be fetishized; and last but not least, sex will kill you. While everyone is entitled to their religious and political beliefs, it is incredibly irresponsible for Stephenie Meyer to force feed this to the series’ legion of young female fans.

The film’s only real redeeming quality is its beautiful cinematography. In the moments where someone isn’t talking (which are too rare), director Bill Condon combines gorgeous on location shooting with a dark, moody vibe in the emotional moments. While he wasn’t able to elicit great performances from his two leads, his shooting managed to add some mystery and dread to the proceedings. The franchise has had a long history of hiring auteurs to direct the franchise, and Bill Condon gets to join the ranks of directors who added some artistry to an otherwise lifeless script (no pun intended). The scene where Bella is giving birth gets serious points for being quite unsettling and disturbing. For the series teeny bopper fans, that was probably quite graphic and terrifying. The final 20 minutes were just better because the film finally introduced a compelling conflict.

Other than the franchise’s consistently awesome indie soundtrack, there aren’t a lot of positive things to say about this train wreck of an entry in the series. My sister, an avid fan of the books, assures me that the book was a lot better than the disaster of a film and that part two should be much more compelling. As it stands, Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1 stands as one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen in ages. The film couldn’t go more than five minutes at a time without uttering a line so unnatural and forced that I nearly laughed, and Kristen Stewart’s horrendous performance is a stain on her otherwise interesting career. Only die-hard Twilight fans should see this entry. Everyone else can stay at home. Save your money for The Muppets which I plan on seeing when it premiers.

Final Score: C-

For long running movie franchises, the origin story is currently in vogue. With the success achieved by Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise with Batman Begins as well as Paul Haggis’s gritty re-imagining of the James Bond universe with the Casino Royale prequel film, film makers realized they could breathe new life into stale and tired franchises by getting back to basics and showing where these fantastic universes came from. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, comic book films were more than happy to just drop you in the established uinverse of the comics and assume you had the requisite knowledge of the backstory to follow along. However, even the first entries in comic franchises these days, such as Iron Man or Captain America, recognize the storytelling potential of actually giving these heroes’ origins, and with that in mind, director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) decided to craft a prequel tale for the X-Men film franchise, and in the process created easily the best film in the X-Men (and potentially whole Marvel universe) franchise and the best comic book film since The Dark Knight and Watchmen.

Set primarily in 1962, at the height of U.S. and Russian tensions during the Cold War, X-Men: First Class chronicles the origins of the superhero group of mutants known as the X-Men, under the leadership of powerful telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Atonement). Studying genetics at Oxford with his best friend Raven (Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone), another mutant with the ability to shapeshift, Charles finds himself drawn into an international struggle that places him smack in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Parallel (and eventually concurrent) to Charles Xavier’s story is that of Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender, Inglourious Basterds), a Holocaust survivor hunting for the Nazi scientists who conducted cruel experiments on him as a child to foster his mutant power of controlling magnetic fields. This nazi scientist is now known as Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who runs a group known as the Hellfire Club alongside fellow mutant Emma Frost (January Jones, Mad Men) who are intent on starting World War III between the U.S. and Russia to create a world where mutants can reign. As Xavier, Lensherr, and the mutants they recruit fight to save the world, a schism forms between Xavier’s peaceful approach to co-existence with humanity and Lensherr’s mutant-supremacy at any cost ideology.

In a role originally inhabited by screen legend Ian McKellan, Michael Fassbender proceeded to not just equal McKellan in the role of Magneto but to simply surpass him in all ways imaginable. To be fair to McKellan, Fassbender had a lot more to work with as this early version of Lensherr is a complex and tragic figure. The old comparison was always that Professor X was Martin Luther King and Magneto was Malcolm X. Here we get to see them in the early stages of this emerging dichotomy, and Fassbender has a lot of pain and suffering to draw from in this character. He’s a roiling pot of rage, bitterness, and revenge, and Fassbender manages to make Lensherr far more sympathetic than the occasionally naive and altruistic Xavier. James McAvoy, who will always be Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to me, surprised me by bringing such a charismatic flair to one of comicdom’s most iconic characters. He gets to play a young Xavier, who is a slightly cocky lothario, and it’s a fun side of the subdued Professor X that we normally never get to see.

Not since The Dark Knight or Watchmen has a mainstream comic book film found such story telling heights by going to such dark places. The average super hero film is escapist fantasy, but this is an especially cynical look at the way humanity reacts to that which is different and how man’s inhumanity man can cause us to turn to the dark side. By setting the story against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vaughn uses a historical allegory as both a plot device and symbolism and it works marvelously. Also, few writers (even in the comics) have ever done such a good job at painting Magneto as this compelling of an anti-villain. It’s no spoiler that by the end of this film, Lensherr wil pit himself against Xavier and draw a line in the sand, but the film manages to ratchet up the tension by showing in heart-breaking detail exactly why Lensherr would be so afraid and untrusting of a human race that fears and despises him. In both comics and film, this is one of the finest renderings of one of the most complex villains in the history of comics.

I heartily respect the writers’ decision to inhabit this film with some less-exposed members of the X-Team. Wolverine is only found in one scene-stealing cameo, and you see nothing of Rogue, Cyclops, Storm, or Jean Grey. Instead, this X-Man line-up consists of Banshee, Havok, Darwin, Angel (not the original one but a girl), Beast, and Mystique. This gives the film a freshness and it permits the writers to throw away the continuity of the previous films and work from scratch to create a new and compelling story. The scenes between Beast and Mystique who both have to wrestle with unfortunate physical deformities because of their mutations do more to add to the development of the team dynamics than any of the love triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine did in the previous films. Similarly, there was just more of a group chemistry among these actors who weren’t established stars like the original cast so we’re allowed to identify with them more as their characters rather than as iconic actors in iconic roles.

The film was far from perfect. January Jones was terribly miscast as Emma Frost. She was wooden, and while Emma Frost is the original ice queen, Jones failed to capture any of her intelligence and strength which has made her such a powerful figure in the X-Men universe for the last 20 years. The end of the film became too focused on providing explosive action sequences (which were all uniformly awesome) instead of the meaty character development that the beginning of the film focused on. Michael Ironside should never be cast in a film even in as tiny a role as the one he receives in this film. All in all, these are small complaints about an otherwise fantastic addition to the world of superhero films that remain true to the spirit and energy of the original series (even if it plays fast and loose with continuity). Superhero films are a mixed bag because for every Iron Man or Spiderman 2, there’s a Thor or The Green Lantern. Fortunately, I can recommend this to all fans of superhero epics without the slightest hesitation. This was one of the best superhero films in years.

Final Score: A-

All critical pretensions aside, I’m a self-admitted fan of director Zack Snyder. His films drip with the sort of stylized action that other directors like Michael Bay or Gore Verbinski could only dream of. Now, you could make the healthy argument that he is all style and no substance, and it pains me to say that with the exception of Watchmen, you’d be pretty much right. His Dawn of the Dead remake was an over-the-top, violent tour de force that helped to kick off the current zombie trend but it added nothing to the original George A. Romero production, and as much fun as 300 is to watch, it amounts to nothing more than a bunch of oiled up, half-naked men fighting for a couple of hours. I just finished his most recent film, Sucker Punch, and while it is undeniably beautiful to look at with visually astounding worlds unlike anything you’ve seen before, a lack of a central emotional core kept me from completely engaging myself with the film.

Sucker Punch (without spoiling anything I believe) is the modern action flick’s take on Stephen Ambrose’s classic tale An Occurrence on Owl Creek Bridge. Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is a young woman in the 1950’s who is sent to a woman’s insane asylum after she accidentally kills her little sister. She has been ordered to be lobotomized and right as the procedure is about to take place, the film suddenly shifts gears Mulholland Drive style to find Baby Doll as the newest “employee” at a brothel/cabaret club run and populated by the same people as the insane asylum. As Baby Doll is being forced to dance at the club, the film shifts gears yet again, and we are transported to a pure fantasy realm where Baby Doll obtains a quest that will allow her to escape her fantasies, the brothel, and even the insane asylum. She gathers up her fellow inmates/dancers/action heroines and sets off on her mission to be free in a plot with several, intersecting layers of narrative.

If you’ve seen Watchmen or 300, you might think you know exactly what to expect from a Zach Snyder film which is hyper-stylized action with a wide color palette and extensive use of slow-motion/bullet time effects. Sucker Punch delivers in all of those areas, but what really sets it apart from the other films in Snyder’s ouevre is the seemingly endless pool of influences that Snyder pulls from in order to populate the various layers of the film. The cabaret scenes instantly evoke thoughts of Chicago. The fantasies where Baby Doll and her partners team up to gain the items they need to escape come from more areas than I can possibly name. We have anime swordfights, zombie nazis, steampunk machines in a fantasy universe, pure science fiction, and more. And they are all stunning to look at. While the fantasy sequences may have simply been Snyder’s excuse to pepper his unfortunately conventional story with mind-blowing action scenes, I’m sort of okay with it because they were so original and unique. He could have made an entire film out of any of the different universes he made and I would have been especially intrigued by the nazi zombie story.

Unfortunately, I never really cared about any of the characters. They had literally zero development as the story began, and outside of Jena Melone’s, Rocket, the acting was so wooden and unconvincing, that I could never develop any empathy with their situation. Emily Browning had two modes for the entire film which was either action girl bad-ass or unemotional eye candy who delivered all of her lines the same way. At least Jena Melone has some real acting cred under her belt but she wasn’t given a whole hell of a lot to say or do unless she was mowing down enemies like Xena meets Starbuck. Similarly, Zack Snyder had pretensions of tacking a Lost Highway/ Mulholland Drive esque story onto a roaring sci-fi epic, and had he met those lofty goals, this film could have been truly phenomenal. Unfortunately, his talents as a writer (he came up with the story and co-wrote the script) simply aren’t able to meet his ambitions, and they way the film down more than if he had simply desired to stick to more conventional sci-fi fare.

One last positive note before I draw the film to a close. I really want to own the soundtrack as there are a lot of really good Bjork songs that I had never heard before that score some of the more kick-ass action/fantasy sequences. At the end of the day though, this was a film that had potential. It had the potential to add a David Lynch/Charlie Kauffman style of mind-bending narrative to visually stunning fantasy worlds, but it only succeeded in half of the equation. I am reassured by this film that Zack Snyder is a unique artist in the visual realm but unless he has AAA material to draw from such as Watchmen, he’s never going to be a top-tier talent because he lacks the total package of a killer eye and a sensitive heart. For those looking for a rolicking action epic, this film easily delivers and has some truly imaginative action scenes. I just wish I could care more about the context that the action took place in.

Final Score: B-

 

Kenneth Branagh.

 

Shakespeare. Most prolific British actor of his generation. Gilderoy Lockhart (for the younger audiences). These are all reasonable associations to make when you hear Kenneth Branagh’s name. No man has done more to re-invigorate interest in William Shakespeare since Laurence Olivier, and he’s truly a legend of the silver screen. So, when I heard that he was tapped to direct the film adapation of Marvel Comics’ Thor, I was immediately intrigued. While I’m not as familiar with the god of thunder as I am other members of the Marvel Universe, I knew that the rich backstory and mythology of Asgard could make for some potentially intriguing cinema if Kenneth Branagh were free to do it the right way. Well, let’s just say that Branagh should stick to Shakespeare. In a world that is post the original Iron Man/ The Dark Knight/ X-2: X-Men United/ and Spiderman 2, audiences have come to expect a little more sophistication and finesse in our comic book adaptions, and Thor failed to deliver on virtually any important front.

Rooted deeply in both ancient Norse mythology as well as modern science fiction conventions, Thor is the origin tale of the titular god of thunder. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the arrogant and powerful son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and heir to the mythical kingdom of Asgard, much to the jealousy of his brother Loki. Right as Thor is about to be coronated as the new king of Asgard, events fall into motion that lead Thor to commit a blunderous and foolish assault on the enemies of Asgard and threatens the safety of the entire realm. Odin banishes Thor to Earth and strips him of all of his powers to teach him humility. Loki uses the ensuing chaos of Thor’s banishment to try and secure the throne for himself, and Thor finds himself on Earth without his powers and must learn the true meaning of being a hero in order to gain back his magical hammer, Mjolnir, and save the kingdom of Asgard as well as Earth.

Where to begin with the faults of the film (because there are so few positives)? Well, let’s begin with the most basic element which is the story and characterization. While I respect Branagh’s desires to construct an interesting mythology and background to frame the film in, he merely sets up a skeletal shell with rushed exposition and a rare combination of technobabble and hand-waving. No one in the film (except for possibly Loki who still comes off as comically evil) has any real depth or dimensions. Thor is possibly the most flat superhero that I can think of. People often complain that Superman lacks any real depth and most of the films do terrible jobs of examining him as a character (the under-rated Superman Returns excepted), but there’s some hidden depths to be found if you actually pay attention. I examined this film trying to desperately try and find some hidden meaning in his character and it just didn’t exist. His tale of redemption is virtually unbelievable as I can’t really find one single moment in the film that would have sparked the sort of change that he suddenly and unbelievably exhibits. The heavy-handed morality of the film simply re-inforces the shallow storytelling stereotypes that unfairly exist around comic books and its incredibly unfortunate.

The wooden and unnatural Chris Hemsworth aside, this film has the making of a virtually A-list cast that it squanders on awkward dialogue and endless exposition. Natalie Portman went from the sublime Black Swan to a character who literally exists to look pretty and tame Thor. Stellan Skarsgaard is a star of the Scandinavian screen and he is reduced to explaining the Norse mythology or uttering scientific nonsense. Idris Elba (aka Stringer Bell from The Wire) is acting tour-de-force and he plays the equivalent of a human door. Not even Anthony Hopkins is given enough to work with. If you give that man crumbs, he can turn it into a feast, and he is simply starved for good material. The only surprise of the whole film was Tom Hiddleston as the villainous Loki who at least adds some gravitas to his transformation to the dark side, but he too is weighed down by the absolutely silly nature of the plot.

I could continue to pick apart other significant flaws of the film such as how in such a special effects heavy film, I felt like I was playing a high budget video game rather than a summer block-buster or how unbelievably dumb Loki’s costume is, but I’m going to stop now and simply state that there is no one I can recommend this to outside of hardcore fans of The Avengers or Thor‘s comic itself. If the character of Thor returns for The Avengers film, I am certain that Joss Whedon will be able to come up with something better for him to do than this waste of celluloid, but that’s in the future, and now, we are stuck with this dreadful excuse of superhero pageantry. It’s not well-written enough in the drama department to take itself as seriously as does (unlike The Dark Knight) and whenever it attempts humor, it falls flat on its face (unlike Iron Man). It is only saved by an occasionally evocative world in Asgard and Tom Hiddleston’s stand-out performance. Otherwise, the god of thunder doesn’t go out with a bang but rather a whimper.

Final Score: C-

I’ve discussed this on this blog before, but I have a love/hate relationship with the romantic comedy genre. Two of my three favorite films of all time are romantic comedies (Annie Hall and Chasing Amy) but most are awful and I suspect directly tied to stimulating something related to the production of estrogen (wow that sentence sounded sexist). Anywho, I just watched one such romantic comedy, 1982’s Kiss Me Goodbye, that was only saved from complete and utter mediocrity by charming performances from its two male leads as well as some slight subversions of where exactly I thought the film was going to go.

 

Kiss Me Goodbye is a unique spin on the love triangle story. Kay (Sally Field) is engaged to stiff and cold Rupert (Jeff Bridges) and has recently moved back into the house that she shared with her Broadway choreographer husband, Jolly (James Caan), who died three years before the story takes place. Kay’s engagement is impeded when Jolly returns as a ghost and casts doubts in Kay’s mind about whether or not she should marry Rupert, because even in death, Jolly is still more full of life than Rupert ever could be. The story is pretty simple, but they do manage to add a few twists here and there on the way to the perhaps predictable ending.

 

I mostly know James Caan as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather and some roles he had later in life. I never guessed that he could be such a talented comic actor. He is quite charming and roguish in the part. Jeff Bridges, who I know is hilarious, is shockingly young in this part. This is (I believe) the earliest role of his that I can remember watching. He looks like a weird cross between Riley from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and David Duchovny at this age. I’m used to him looking like The Dude. It was cool to see him cleaned up and younger. I didn’t dislike this movie. I didn’t love it either. It was over and I won’t think much of it in the future. You might enjoy it more than I did though.

Final Score: B-

 

I am 22 years old. I’ve legally been an adult for over four years now. I’ve gambled in Las Vegas, drank myself sick at countless bars, and lived on my own for two years now. Yet, tonight was the night that my childhood officially ended. For years now, I’ve been able to cling desperately to some last remnant of my youth because whenever any new Harry Potter book or movie was released, I was instantly transported back to the innocent, 5th grader who had opened The Philosopher’s Stone for the very first time. I was immediately transformed into a sense of child-like wonder and escapism. With the exception of The Hobbit (which was the first piece of fantasy literature that I was ever exposed to), no other piece of fiction has had such a monumental influence on my imagination and pure sense of wonder as the magical world that J.K. Rowling would return me to time and time again. While, as I got older, I discovered other writers such as Neil Gaiman or George R. R. Martin who could craft even deeper and more engaging worlds than that of Harry Potter, nothing they have ever created or will ever create could possibly hold the same place in my heart as the countless hours of my youth I lost reading and re-reading the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

If you couldn’t tell, this is going to be an incredibly personal review. While I will make an attempt to analyze the film mostly on its strengths as cinema, I’m going to go ahead and assure you that this isn’t entirely possible. This movie means too much for me to distance myself from it enough to be completely unbiased. However, since the almost universal consensus has been that it was simply awesome, I’m hoping that I’m not just feeling the way I do out of a weird nostalgia or sentimentality. My expectations were the film were quite high, and whenever that happens, I tend to hate the movie I watched because they can never live up to the movie I’ve made in my head. However, for a film that changed quite a bit of the book and added a lot of material, not only did this film meet my expectations, it exceeded them in nearly every way possible. I haven’t cried for such a ridiculous continuous period of time since I saw The Return of the King in theatres, and the film combined an epic fantasy adventure with intense levels of personal emotions that I would have thought nearly impossible. I couldn’t have possibly imagined a more fitting way to draw such an integral part of my childhood to a close.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 picks up literally where Part 1 left off. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have little time to mourn Dobby’s death as the clock is running out on their quest to destroy the Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort once and for all. Without wanting to ruin anything (and I’m assuming we’ve all read the books by this point), the film is broken into three parts. There is the break in at Gringotts where the group must steal from the “impossible to steal from” wizard’s bank to gain one of the Horcruxes. Part two is the indescribably epic battle for Hogwarts (and once that started I literally didn’t stop crying the entire film), and then there’s the epilogue. The battle for Hogwarts makes up the vast majority of the film, and much of the contents of those scenes are greatly expanded from the book if not created out of thin air. However (and I know this is blasphemous but I don’t care), I honestly felt the film handled many different aspects of that battle better than the book did if for no other reason than we got to actually see things that were simply alluded to and certain moments carried even more emotional weight because of that.

The battle for Hogwarts is simply one of the most well-constructed and epic, both in scale and emotional weight, fantasy or science fiction sequences that I have ever seen put to screen. It had the scale and technological wizardy of the best moments from Lord of the Rings and Star Wars while placing it all in a personalized and emotional context that such moments normally lack. The battle for Isildur in Return of the King is a technical triumph, but I was never as emotionally invested in the individual actions or players (because the emotional aspects of the journey always rested with the Hobbits) as I was in nearly every familiar face’s role in the battle for Hogwarts. Some of my most beloved characters from the series lost their lives during that battle, and while I read about it all for the first time four years ago, it was equally as powerful now as it was then.

I’m the same age as the stars of the film. The Deathly Hallows was actually released the summer after I graduated from high school. As I’ve aged, Harry aged. I became more interested in darker and more mature themes, and the books matured with me. The book was a spectacular metaphor for coming to terms with adult responsibilities and the sacrifices that we must make for the one’s we love. The film captures the themes and mood of the book as well as it possibly could. It seems so fitting that as I am now entering the grim and dark world of adulthood and leaving school and family behind that this vestige of my childhood draws to its close. I was the awkward, bullied kid who didn’t know his place in the world and never stood up for himself, and while I’m not comparing myself to Harry, I’d like to believe that I’ve grown into my own and carved my own little place in the world and stood up for what I believed in. I know I’m not alone here either. For every kid of the millennial generation (and some of their more cool parents), this marks the end of a significant era and I lack the skill with words to capture that emotional weight.

This was easily the best film in the series. While The Deathly Hallows is not my favorite book in the series and I only gave Part 1 a B+ on here, this film carries such depth and power that it’s going to stay with me a long while. I’m an admitted fanboy so maybe this isn’t an appropriate score for this movie, but I honestly believe that this is the score the film deserves on its merits as a movie and not my attachment to the series. I can easily say that this film marks one of the pinnacles of fantasy film-making, and it will be a long time (hopefully not so long for The Dark Tower books to become movies) before something will come around that so completely captures an entire generations imagination. Its detractors accounted for, I firmly believe that J.K. Rowling has crafted a legacy that will live in the hearts and minds of kids (and adults) for as long as the written word remains. The adventures of Harry Potter will stand alongside the quests of the Fellowship and the adventures beyond the wardrobe to Narnia. They will be timeless, and I will always know that I was part of the generation that was first exposed to this wonderful world.

Score: A